By Joshua Scheer, reporter, county10.com
(Lander, Wyo.) – The Lander City Council passed first readings of two amended ordinances last night during a discussion-filled meeting.
Both ordinances, one regarding alcohol sales hours and the other involving parking large vehicles on city streets, will require second and third readings before going into effect. Clerk Robin Griffin said the second readings are scheduled for Feb. 12.
The amendment passed for alcohol sales hours would allow local businesses to begin selling alcohol at 6 a.m. on Sundays. Right now the city limits Sunday hours to starting at 12 p.m. at the earliest. The city currently allows for businesses to be open between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. every other day of the week.
“I really have personally no reason to object to a person having mimosas on Sundays,” Councilor Dick Hudson said.
However, a lot of individuals he talked to raised concerns with Fremont County’s alcohol problem, both during his campaign and recently. He presented Driving Under the Influence fatality numbers that show Fremont County as consistently among the worst. He also said that Lander Police Chief Jim Carey told him 76 percent of his department’s arrests involve drugs and/or alcohol.
Councilor Monte Richardson was the first to bring up the impact of limiting local businesses’ sales. He said if people were heading out to Boysen Reservoir early one Sunday morning, it’s easy for them to stop in Riverton to purchase any beer they might want to take with them. That’s potential income being kept out of Lander business’s hands. Mayor Mick Wolfe disagreed, saying any individual who wants to can prep their cooler the night before and buy their liquor in town.
Richardson said it also is not his job to tell people when they can and cannot drink. Wolfe agreed.
“They tried prohibition years ago, and that was a mess,” Wolfe said. “You can’t legislate morality, and you can’t legislate common sense.”
Wolfe also addressed the thinking that originally the law was put into place to keep people going to church rather than drinking. “If you’re going to go to church, you’re going to go to church,” he said.
Councilor Cade Maestas agreed that there is a drinking problem in the county but said the problem lies more with the drinking culture and not with the hours of sales. He said it felt like some people were trying leverage alcohol-related statistics against changing the hours. But he said unless all the DUI deaths occurred at 10 a.m. on Sunday, he didn’t see that it would have an effect.
Liquor store owner Ron Hanson also didn’t think changing the hours would have an effect. He said the local businesses gain nothing from over serving or serving minors.
The Middle Fork co-owner Geoff Rader, who brought the issue to the forefront a couple weeks ago, said for him it’s “strictly business.” He said the restaurant has an older clientele and it’s rare for anyone to have more than one drink with their breakfast. “They’re not there to party,” he said.
Carey told the council he agreed there is an alcohol problem, but “I’m having a difficult time saying that this particular measure is going to cause us a significant problem.”
Council President Nancy Webber and Councilor Dan Hahn were not in attendance. After the first reading passed, Wolfe told the audience he didn’t know how they would vote in the future.
Other agenda items:
– A first reading of a re-written ordinance regarding parking large vehicles on city streets passed 4-1, with Councilor Buddy Spriggs voting no. He told the council that he didn’t think the ordinance need to be changed. Two more readings are required. The bottom portion of the attached ordinance is what was approved. Wolfe asked for short-term contractor trailers be addressed at the next reading and after Jim McRae raised some concerns.
-The mortgage for the Community Entry Services building was turned over to the nonprofit.
-A standard agreement was signed with Dowl HKM for small projects.
-Steve Lee was re-appointed to the airport board.
-The contract for the community center’s design was amended to include the newest budget.